How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

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You just graduated with a technology degree and you’re ready to start sending out resumes. Your resume is looking good—lots of summer tech jobs, solid GPA, and interesting projects you worked on that relate to the jobs you’re most interested in.


Trouble is, you’re not a very good wordsmith, so you worry about the all-important cover letter. You’ve heard from career counselors and campus recruiters that a good cover letter can put you on the short list of candidates. "The cover letter is the only thing you have that separates the person from being a candidate and being a human being," says Don Charlton, founder and CEO of The Resumator, an online hiring software firm. "Resumes are about skills, cover letters are an opportunity for a person to indicate their desire to work for a company. A good cover letter followed by a good resume, that's like brains and beauty.”


Where to start? A good place would be to be aware of the three cover letter types: the application letter, the letter of inquiry, and the networking letter. While they all share roughly the same format, each serves a specific purpose. Here’s how they break out:


Application Letter

The goal of this letter is to get your résumé or CV reviewed and to lock in an interview. If you’re responding directly to a specific job posting in a newspaper, online, or through a personal contact, you would highlight your qualifications and show how your skills dovetail with the advertised position.


Letter of Inquiry

In this letter, you’re searching for possible openings at a particular company and not responding to an ad. You're shooting blind here, since you don’t have a job posting to work with. All the more reason to do some real digging on the company, its products, departments and people. The goal is to match your skills to what you anticipate they might need.


Networking Letter

Here, youre goal is to simply get an informational interview instead of a job. Use this letter to connect with a particular employee—a referral by someone you know, like a professor or engineer you met at a job fair. Informational interviews are ideal for getting the inside scoop on a particular company and industry. What you learn can help you focus on a specific career direction, and to get a "heads up" on possible future job openings. This is the one letter that can be sent without your resume attached.


As to the content of your cover letter, you can find endless examples of well-written cover letters online. MIT has cover letter guidelines that you’ll find useful. The important thing to remember is to do your research and to match your letter and qualifications to the job you’re seeking or the post that’s advertised.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/


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  • Nancy F
    Nancy F
    Informative, Thanks
  • Vinar P
    Vinar P
    Great page. Lots of helpful hints.  The MIT link was very helpful
  •  Monica H
    Monica H
    These are very helpful guidelines, to facilitate one's articulation whether applying for a job, conducting an inquiry, or networking.Thank you.
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thanks for your comments and suggestions. Cover letter samples can be found at
  • Clinton C D
    Clinton C D
    Useful, informative.  Thanks for the tips, keep 'em coming.  They DO get read.
  • Jainet C
    Jainet C
    I recently wrote a cover letter and included some of the words from the job description. It works!
  • Robert J
    Robert J
    Just a generalized story of what is, but offers not much help, for many do not have the imagination, or vocabulary to write a successful letter.  All they have is the few meager facts of their few accomplishments.
  • Juawana M
    Juawana M
  • Michael B
    Michael B
    didn't help me.
  • Maria Lucita R
    Maria Lucita R
    Thank you, this is a very useful guide to follow in doing a cover letter.
  • Christina C
    Christina C
    thank you for the information. maybe it will clear up some trouble i have with my cover letter.
  • Bobby D
    Bobby D
    I feel that this is  very to help people write a good cover and the resume  should reflect as well
  •  Don H
    Don H
    I am in dire need of suggestions to write an effective cover letter.Thank you for helping,Don H
  • Rick (Frederick) J
    Rick (Frederick) J
    good information with good hyperlink to deeper information.  it owuld be great if you added some sover letter examples with some career specific eye catching phrases.Thanks
  • Walter D
    Walter D
    Waste of time reading this, if a cover letter was written like this, he would starve.
  • Marjorie C
    Marjorie C
    Thank you for these helpful tips I have been submiting resumes and cover letters with no results so now with this information I can be more detail to in showing how my skill relate to the job i'm applying for. thank you.
  • Eloise H
    Eloise H
    This article gave me some insights that I had not seen before.  It is good to think about the three types of letters and the objectives of each one.
  • Dana L
    Dana L
    One thing I would add- increase the likelihood that your reader will actually open and read your cover letter by having an abbreviated, concise "version" of your cover letter in the email body. In other words, just a couple of lines introducing yourself, mentioning what position you're applying to (important, as recruiters handle multiple positions), a quick reference to your qualifications as it pertains to the job opening, and a closing thanking them for their time.  
  • Karen K
    Karen K
    I’m always ready to hear about or receive suggests to make myself stand out, so I receive those invitations for a job interview.I did find this article interesting and helpful.Thanks
    Great points! Its useful to note the differences.Thanks a million
  • Bessie L h
    Bessie L h
    I just graduated from Kaplan University with a master of Science in Information Technology and I am having a tough time obtaining employment I have a good resume I need a great cover letter

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